Thoughts: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke


Belle Vie is a beautiful, sprawling estate in Louisiana, the ideal place for wedding parties. Oh, and it’s a former sugar cane plantation turned museum theater. As the general manager, Caren Gray works and lives on the property, where her ancestors were slaves. On the land outside the gates a huge corporation exploits cheap workers from Mexico. Tensions mount when one of the workers is found with her throat slit and Caren finds that the murder, the disappearance of a former slave in the past and her own family history are all intertwined.

This was my first of Attica Locke’s works and it is pretty much perfect. Mystery is one of my preferred genres and combine that with the social commentary, it makes my social justice warrior heart swell. And Locke is clearly very talented in that she manages to wrap complex characters, social justice, literary writing style and an exciting mystery all in one book.

The setting of the story, the eerily beautiful antebellum plantation Belle Vie really becomes a character in its own right and Caren’s late-night movements across the estate evoke a haunting atmosphere that was hard to shake after I finished the book. Not being from the US maybe I just don’t get the normalcy of it, but the re-enactments, that’s pretty messed up. I mean I understand the importance of bringing history to life, of refusing denial and forgetting to white people. But the trauma of standing where your ancestors were enslaved and taking on that role? As always, taking on the labor of teaching anti-racism in the hopes of working towards dismantling it. For more anti-racist work about slavery museum theater, let me recommend the webseries Ask A Slave.


I also really appreciate the connection Locke draws between the antebellum slavery economy and current forms of exploitation of labor, such as cheap and often undocumented workers from Mexico. In an interview, Locke states: “I do think that for people of color – and also for women, frankly – that our economic ascent is always complicated by the fact that you’re aware of people who aren’t coming up with you” (NPR). That’s the spirit of solidarity I’m always hoping for in social justice work!

As a thriller by a woman of color writer, reading The Cutting Season counts for both R.I.P. X and Diversiverse. Aarti wrote that reading more diversely does not mean you have to change your book reading habits and I think this work is a great example of that. If you’re a mystery buff like myself, pick up this one!

Have your reviewed this book? Let me know and I’ll add a link!

Other thoughts:

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16 thoughts on “Thoughts: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

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  1. I just read this last month and it was easily one of my favorites for the month, and this year. While I liked Black Water Rising and also its sequel Pleasantville, which is how I discovered Locke (at our local library, on the new book shelf), I thought this one had more depth to it.

    Locke’s books also work well for me because I primarily am a crime fiction reader. I do stray occasionally into other genres, but pretty much stay there.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Bryan. I’m very interested in Black Water Rising, didn’t know there was a sequel! Crime is one of my fave genres as well and it is so diverse and changeable, I never feel that choosing the genre is restrictive in reading choices.


  2. Ahhh I really liked this book. Attica Locke packs SO MUCH into all of her books (I’ve read all three, but this is my favorite), it’s impressive. And also, not surprising that she now writes for the most jam-packed-full-of-things show on TV, Empire. :p


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jenny. Good to know the other books are great as well, I have to pace myself, I loved this one so much. Didn’t know she writes for Empire, I’m mostly there for Taraji P. Henson 🙂


  3. I really enjoyed this book, too! I have not read her other two mystery novels, but I plan to. I wish she would focus on these characters again, though. She may be busy – as Jenny said, she’s writing for Empire.


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Aarti. I’d love a sequel to this as well! I guess I’ll have to pace myself until Locke writes more. And watch Empire, of course 🙂


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